For years, anti-abortion groups have pushed pseudoscience that maintains doctors can reverse a medication-induced abortion. But the “abortion reversal” technique is a scientifically unproven treatment disavowed by the medical community. Yet, that didn’t stop a top Trump administration official from suggesting an undocumented teen undergo the so-called treatment.

On January 31, Vice News broke the story that abortion opponent Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement — the agency that oversees undocumented youth who come to the United States unattended — had talked with staffers about reversing a medication abortion undergone by a pregnant teen in their custody. Medication abortions consist of taking two pills — the first is mifepristone, and the second is misoprostol. Together, these medications work to block progesterone, a hormone you need to stay pregnant. When people talk about reversing this process, they seem to be talking about intervening after someone has taken mifepristone, but not yet misoprostol. The teen in question was ultimately allowed to complete the abortion, according to Vice News, but the situation has raised concerns among reproductive health advocates and health care providers about how far a disavowed theory on abortion has infiltrated government agencies.

“It’s very concerning that they would consider using an unproven theory in this situation,” Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, tells Teen Vogue. “How could this young woman make an informed choice about this treatment when she’s being told about [it] by the people holding her in custody? There’s no way that this could not be coercive.”

The myth of the “abortion reversal” relies heavily on pseudoscience championed by noted anti-choice physician Dr. George Delgado. In 2012, Delgado published a case study in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy journal that claimed four out of six women who took mifepristone — the first pill in the two-pill medication abortion regimen — were able to continue their pregnancies after getting a high dosage shot of progesterone, the sex hormone responsible for thickening the uterine lining and making it friendly to pregnancy. But the study did not comply with the minimal standards for medical research, such as using a control group or applying for ethical approval, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

On top of that, a 2015 systematic review of existing literature published in the journal Contraception largely discredits Delgado’s study, concluding that there is “insufficient” scientific research to suggest medication abortions can be reversed by injecting progesterone as opposed to not taking the second pill in the regimen.

“There is no evidence that any kind of treatment will make it more likely for a woman to continue a pregnancy,” says Grossman, who authored of the Contraception study.

The “abortion reversal” myth is also rejected by the wider medical community. Three years ago, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly came out against claims that a person can reverse a medication abortion, citing in a one-page memo the dearth of reliable research as the basis for their position. The professional association also advised against administering such a high progesterone dose because, “while generally well tolerated,” the hormone can lead to “significant cardiovascular, nervous system and endocrine adverse reactions as well as other side effects.”

“This is not the kind of treatment that is supported at all by any major medical group,” says Chicago-based OB/GYN Dr. Ben Brown, a member of ACOG and Physicians for Reproductive Health, a doctor-led national advocacy group. “It’s not even treatment. It’s just not a part of our medical care.”

So why does the “abortion reversal” myth continue to persist, then? Grossman suggests it’s because anti-abortion activists can use the so-called technique as a way to build what’s been dubbed a “narrative of regret” — and therefore inspire legislators to introduce bills that severely weaken abortion rights.

“It allows them the opportunity to talk about how women regret their decisions, how they change their minds, how they are forced too quickly into having an abortion by their providers,” Grossman tells Teen Vogue. “None of which is really supported by evidence.”

Quite the opposite is true, actually: Research shows that most people don’t regret having an abortion. A 2015 study published in the journal PLoS One found that 95% of U.S. women surveyed who underwent an abortion still felt they made the right decision a week after the procedure; the same percentage held true three years later. Any negative emotions women did experience around their abortions were more associated with community abortion stigma and lack of social support, according to the study. But those negative feelings eventually subsided over time. Additionally, in the “rare” situation that someone did wish to discontinue the abortion process after taking just the first part of the abortion pill, the ACOG notes “doing nothing and waiting to see what happens is just as effective as intervening with a course of progesterone.”

Yet, despite the lack of credible evidence, conservative lawmakers continue to push legislation that would legitimize this idea of abortion reversal. In 2015, Arkansas became the first state to require, by law, that doctors inform people seeking medication abortions that the procedure could be reversed, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Arizona and South Dakota followed suit, passing their own mandatory abortion reversal counseling laws. Arizona’s law was challenged in court and eventually repealed in 2016.

Some state legislatures have found other ways to restrict access to medication abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 19 states have implemented laws requiring a clinician to be physically present while administering abortion medication, precluding the use of telemedicine, even though research shows that telemedicine is as safe as visiting your doctor.

These pieces of legislation are “not only an affront to a woman’s decision-making ability, but it interferes with the doctor-patient relationship,” says Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF). “The personal ideologies of anti-choice politicians should not trump credible scientific evidence and the expertise of health care providers.”

Not all states have been successful in passing “abortion reversal” bills, though. The same year Arkansas enacted its law, anti-choice lawmakers in Louisiana planned to introduce similar legislation that would mandate counseling on medication abortion “reversal,” according to Rewire. But a year later, state lawmakers passed a House resolution ordering the Louisiana Department of Health to investigate claims that the medication abortions can be reversed.

The Louisiana department dealt anti-abortion activists a significant blow in April 2017: A 2017 Louisiana Office of Public Health report found “neither sufficient evidence nor a scientific basis to conclude that the effects of an abortion induced with drugs or chemicals can be reversed.”

In other words, “There’s no other medication that can stop [the abortion pill] from working,” Brown tells Teen Vogue.

Source: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/medical-abortion-no-reversal